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Goleta Planning Commission Signs Off on Willow Springs II Development Agreement

The pact, which next goes to the City Council for approval, would require a longer rental period on the housing units

The Goleta Planning Commission on Monday night approved a development agreement for the Willow Springs II project that would require a longer rental period on the housing units.

The 235 existing units at 60 Willow Springs Lane would remain rentals until 2023 — some were going to be sold as condominiums next year — and the 100 new units would be rented for at least 10 years.

The development agreement was negotiated between the City of Goleta and developer The Towbes Group, and is scheduled to be voted on by the City Council in early September.

Development agreements aren’t required, but they give builders certainty that they can move forward and give the city public benefits it most likely couldn’t otherwise impose on developers, city staff said.

The proposal approved by the Planning Commission on Monday night would also require The Towbes Group to pay $271,900 in initial Quimby fees, with another $703,900 deferred if the units are rented for at least a decade.

Quimby fees come from projects that require subdivisions and are allocated to park acquisition and improvement projects, according to city contract planner Natasha Campbell.

A $150,000 donation would be given to the city for general use, and developers would cooperate in selling an easement for a future commuter train station in the area.

Michael Towbes said the deal is a good one for the city and the developer, but that his company would be willing to move forward even without a development agreement since the project already has final approvals.

He said the City Council wanted the rental units to stay rentals for a longer period of time to provide more affordable housing to Goleta residents. So, The Towbes Group went back to the drawing board after the council approval to come up with the plan to extend rental time in exchange for lower fees.

The housing units are worth quite a bit more as condominiums, he noted at the Planning Commission meeting.

Planning commissioners had mixed feelings and voted 3-2 to approve the agreement. Having the donation given to the general fund instead of specifically allocated to parks projects gave some of them pause, since the fees being waived are the type that directly benefit parks and recreation projects in the city. The other option presented by staff members would have had about $1 million in fees paid right away with no rental restrictions on existing or new housing units in the Willow Springs development.

“I’m uneasy about what the city might be deferring on the capital improvement list for recreation,” commission chair Jonny Wallis said, adding that the decision seemed to be a choice between affordability and parks.

Commissioner Bill Shelor also voted against the Option 2 development agreement that was approved Monday night.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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